Idiosyncratic Americans

Two unexpected encounters during the final day of canvassing.

Out in the "burbs" with about 40 students, my longest discussion was with a woman who for several decades was on the city Democratic committee and had never voted for a Republican. She worked for Hillary in the primaries, but was going to vote for McCain until Palin was picked and the economy started collapsing.

I wanted to know what motivated this. It wasn't sexism; she didn't seem to think that Hillary was particularly mistreated. It wasn't conservative ideological leanings; she's an old-fashioned labour liberal, who still bemoans the US Steel plant closing and the couple next door that doesn't own cars from Detroit. But she was leaning toward McCain until Palin. I couldn't wrap my head around it.

I then asked her if she had any concerns about Obama. "Well, they'd riot if he loses." "Who's they?" I asked. "The blacks. See, you're young. You don't remember when they were burning the cities down. They almost destroyed Philly, and if he loses they'll do it again." So why was she still leaning toward Obama? "The economy, of course. That Palin woman. But mostly, I realise that if he wins, they won't riot at all."

Whatever happened to optimism?

Later, I knocked on a door in Philadelphia and when a man opened it the first thing I saw was his hand, tattooed with a swastika and a skull on the back. I was bracing for a short and ugly conversation, and, to be perfectly honest, I was scared. But he saw the Obama button and his face just lit up as he told me how great it was that I was out there, how much America needed a change after eight years of Republican rule and that he would be on his way to vote soon.

This definitely makes up for the kid who screamed at me calling me a traitor to my face.